“MOTHER, FATHER and CHILD live their lives the way lives are lived until one day CHILD lies down on his stomach and refuses to get up.” It is an intriguing, dark premise for a play, that holds much promise. While New Working Group’s production of Louris van de Geer’s Looking Glass (directed by Susie Dee) is at times muddled, it offers a strange and piercing look into domestic lives.
Looking Glass is a string of snippets, offering glimpses into the lives of a mother, father and child as parents try to ascertain what has gone wrong with their child, only to slowly discover that it is them at the root of the problem. The vignettes are simultaneously familiar and strange, detached and intimate. There is a tension and a humour that simmers under the text, which is refreshing and intriguing.
The cast of Looking Glass (Daniela Farinacci, Thomas Taylor, Peter Houghton, Josh Price) feel a bit uncomfortable with it all: with themselves, with each other, with the space. There are a few different performance styles going on, which director Susie Dee doesn’t quite manage to shape into a cohesive whole. The effect is unsettling, which indeed suits the play, however it also feels as though each of the performers are playing their own version of the script. In a play about (dis)connection, it is a strange sight to behold. Still, there are moments which shine – a scene between mother, father and child playing ball, a conversation about sex between the two parents.
Kate Davis’ set is suitably weird: a white space surrounded by yellow walls that characters routinely walk through. On every side of the playing space is the void of fortyfivedownstairs; a disconcerting glimpse at the outside that awaits this family, even as they struggle to find each other. Ian Moorhead’s sound and Amelia Lever-Davidson’s lighting synthesise to create a world which is unsettled, weird, garish, and entirely unaware of its own strangeness.
Looking Glass is a better script than this production allows it to be. It offers a tantalising exploration of the impact of the modern world on families, on individuals, and it asks what it means to be a mother, father and child living in this world, with so much weight on everyone’s shoulders, and so much of what’s wrong remaining unspoken.